Sonatine bureaucratique

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Sonatine bureaucratique, cover of the original 1917 edition

Sonatine bureaucratique or "Bureaucratic sonatina" is a piano composition by Erik Satie, that spoofs the Sonatina Op. 36 N° 1 by Muzio Clementi.

Satie's sonatina, even shorter than Clementi's example, was composed in July 1917 and published the same year. The composition is in three small-scale movements, of which the last one exposes some pseudo-development: the motifs of the first half of that movement are rearranged in another sequence by way of "development section", or rather as the imitation of development.

From a formal point of view the sonatina is Satie's most outspoken neoclassical composition. It is one of the exceptional piano compositions he wrote down with bar lines, which he probably would not have done if not for making an explicit reference to classicism.

That Satie would write a "neo-classical" composition a few months after the succès de scandale of Parade, is not so surprising either: Satie was on friendly terms with Stravinsky since 1911, and after this composer had had his own succès de scandale with The Rite of Spring in 1913 (premiered with the same Ballets Russes), he also moved towards neoclassicism – although for Stravinsky there was no distinct neoclassical composition published before Satie's sonatina.

The partition is full of funny remarks, for example, the final movement being called "Vivache", instead of the original Vivace ("vache" being French for "cow"). Satie directs at least part of the fun at himself: the sourd muet ("deaf-mute") from Lower Brittany, allegedly having provided the "Peruvian air" that forms the first theme of the last movement, is Satie himself. The sonatina can also be seen as the composition with which Satie concluded his series of "funny" 3-part solo piano compositions, which had started in 1911.

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